It was Senior Night, the students were lured out with a free t-shirts, the arena was filled to the brim with fans ready to end the home season with a big win and the home team responded to demolish the visitors handily.
That is how it was for CSU last week when they dominated Wyoming in Fort Collins, but this week the script was flipped in Las Vegas.
It was the last regular season home game for five University of Nevada Las Vegas seniors and almost every single person in attendance sported plain, white shirts, and the Runnin’ Rebels sent the Rams packing with a 65-47 defeat in front of its first sell-out since 1993.
The Rams knew coming into the game that they would have to play near perfect, and they played far from it. The Rebels used a high pressure trapping defense to harass the Ram guards, forcing CSU into 22 turnovers, and they held the Rams to a season low in points at half (19) and shooting percentage for a game.
When the Rams managed to beat the UNLV guard pressure, two of UNLV’s seniors, Joel Anthony and Gaston Essengue, would swat attempted Ram shots. The two combined for 13 of UNLV’s 16 blocks, with Anthony blocking eight and Essengue five.
Jason Smith recorded his sixth straight double-double, going for 12 points and 15 rebounds, but he hit only 5-13 shots on the night, as the Rams shot only 34.5 percent from the field as a team.
No one besides Smith scored in double figures for the Rams, as Stephan Gilling was the second highest scorer with 9 points.
Kevin Kruger, son of UNLV coach Lon Kruger, led the Rebels in scoring with 16 points, and dished out nine assists on his Senior Night. Anthony was the only other Rebel in double digits with 10 points.
CSU, which will be seeded sixth in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, will return to the same floor Thursday to take on the San Diego State Aztecs at 9:30 p.m. in the first round of the tournament.
Sports writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.